Regular visitors can’t get enough
The Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department has long sensed that park users are pretty happy with their experiences. Now there’s fresh data to prove it.
The department recently issued the results of its 2018 visitor survey — the second it has ever done — and found that its numbers were comparable to a similar but less robust survey conducted in 2014.
A whopping 94% of 2018 visitors surveyed were satisfied with the County’s 28 regional parks, which cover 52,000 acres, says the department’s strategic partnerships manager, Melissa Hippard, who oversaw the latest survey.
Given that frequent and very frequent visitors made up a large majority of those surveyed, perhaps it’s not so surprising that satisfaction is high. People were surveyed in person as they were visiting the parks. Those who wanted to answer later were handed a form with a link to an online survey.
More people, more often
Compared with 2014, Hippard said, “More people are visiting the parks more often.” Last year, 65% of those surveyed said they visited the parks at least once a week, up from 49%.
Hippard called the results “amazing,” in part because visitors surveyed are reasonably reflective of the county’s diverse ethnic makeup. On the other hand, while Parks wants to be welcoming to everyone, she noted that the visitor survey reflects only visitors who are in the parks.
The department is embarking on a research project focused on identifying non-park users and understanding what limits their knowledge of the park system. “We really want to understand how to make our parks more accessible to more people, to understand what is preventing people from using their parks,” Hippard said.
Hard data needed
Based on industry studies, news reports, the department’s own focus groups and more, Parks officials suspect they know some of those answers already. Many people don’t have easy access to the parks because they don’t live close and don’t have convenient transportation, for example. Perhaps some people simply prefer city parks, with their swimming pools, sports fields and courts. And it may be that some people don’t know how to use or feel safe in large, distant open spaces.
“Nearly 40% of our population in Santa Clara County are foreign-born, and people who are not from the area or the country may not know to look for regional parks,” Hippard said. Cultural and language differences can create barriers for people, and the Department is committed to making sure it provides everyone a reason to visit the parks.
“And so just letting them know parks are out there is not the same as helping them understand how to enjoy spending time on trails, in campgrounds and on lakes. Understanding more about the perceptions of non-park users is something I really want to dig into” in the research project, she said.
In order to spend money wisely to attract more users to the parks and serve all residents in Santa Clara County, she said, the department needs the hard data from a research project focused on non-park users.